News Wrap: Enrollments in health care law hit 2 million but miss goal

December 31, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
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HARI SREENIVASAN: On Wall Street today, the end of 2013 went much like the rest of this record-setting year: Stocks kept rising. The S&P 500 had its best year since 1997, up 29 percent. Other major indexes also scored big. The Dow Jones industrial average added another 72 points today to close at 16576. The Nasdaq rose 22 points to close at 4176. We will look at what drove the year-long rally right after the news summary.

Two new reports rounded out the year in economic news. Housing prices rose again in October for a year-to-year gain of 13.6 percent, the most since 2006. That’s according to the Standard & Poor’s/ Case-Shiller index. And the business research group Conference Board reported that consumers’ moods brightened in December, with better outlooks for hiring and growth. It had been down for three straight months.

The number of enrollments in the new health care law has topped two million. The Obama administration announced the figure today. It’s based on numbers from the federal Web site healthcare.gov, covering 36 states, plus individual Web sites serving the other 14. The administration initially hoped to have 3.3 million enrollments by now.

It’s already 2014 in some parts of the world, with millions of revelers welcoming the new year with celebrations and futuristic fireworks.

We have a report from Neil Connery of Independent Television News.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

NEIL CONNERY: Auckland was the first major city to ring in the new year, as New Zealand welcomed 2014 in style. In Sydney, there was a breathtaking start to the new year. More than one million people crammed onto the shores of Sydney Harbor, as the city bathed under the glow of a spectacular 11-minute firework display, Australia, as always, determined to show the world how new year should really be celebrated.

In Tokyo, monks rang the Bell of Time housed at the Buddhist temple to mark 2014′s arrival, the ancient traditions greeted by a modern welcome with everyone determined to get a picture. More than 850,000 revelers in Taipei savored this spectacle, as Taiwan marked the midnight hour.

Hong Kong’s harbor played host to a mesmerizing start to the new year. And the Great Wall of China near Beijing was lit up with lasers, providing the dramatic backdrop to celebrations and thrilling the crowds.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Later, the Persian Gulf oil city of Dubai boasted the night’s biggest fireworks display. Organizers said it set a new world record. The show used half-a-million shells and lasted six full minutes, centered on the world’s tallest tower and synchronized by 100 computers. Officials of “The Guinness World Record Book” witnessed the event.

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin vowed today that those behind the bombings in Volgograd will face — quote — “complete annihilation.” The attacks Sunday and Monday killed at least 34 people. Security was ramped up today across the city once known as Stalingrad. Police detained dozens of suspects, but it was unclear if any of them were tied to the bombings. The attacks raised security concerns about the Winter Olympics, set for February in Sochi, some 400 miles away.

The government of South Sudan and rebels have agreed to attend peace talks in Ethiopia, in an effort to end the fighting between ethnic factions. But hours before the announcement, the rebels took control of nearly all of the city of Bor in Jonglei state. At least 1,000 people have been killed in South Sudan in two weeks of fighting.

Evacuated residents of a small North Dakota town were allowed to return home today 24 hours after a mile-long crude oil train derailed. The train went off the tracks on the outskirts of Casselton. It triggered a thunderous explosion that sent a huge fireball and thick black smoke into the sky. No one was hurt, and officials said today the air has cleared.

DR. ALAN NYE, toxicologist: We have not detected any of the products of combustion like carbon monoxide or sulfur dioxide or nitrogen dioxide that come from burning — that could come from burning crude oil in the community, so we’re really encouraged by that. We haven’t detected any other volatile organic compounds.

HARI SREENIVASAN: A spokeswoman for the rail company said a separate train transporting grain derailed first. That, in turn, knocked several of the oil train’s cars off their adjoining tracks.